In the early '80s, the term "art therapy" wasn’t widely regarded yet, but Era Rowles knew what the wonders of art could do for the soul. She saw it firsthand with the troubled children she taught at the local youth centres and reform schools. “Their files stated that they were unteachable,” says Era. “But, I knew if you could make someone create, you could get them out of themselves to adopt more appropriate behaviours. Teaching, using the power of art, turned those kids around. I thought if I could change the behaviour of an emotionally challenged child with art, imagine what I could do in the world.” That led her to open her own gallery, Rowles & Company, in 1984, in downtown Edmonton. In 2008, it moved to the LeMarchand Mansion overlooking the River Valley.
Those early days were busy. Era taught during the day and then worked at her gallery until late at night. “Everyone thinks it’s easy to open a gallery but it’s a lot of work, a lot of money, a lot of investment,” says Era. “All my money from teaching went into investing in the art gallery.” But, it paid off. Rowles & Company expanded outside their walls and started supplying art to several of the high-end hotels and office lobbies downtown, including the Epcor Tower, the Westin and the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.